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American burying beetle

American burying beetle

Entomologists have not found this carrion feeder on a Missouri native prairie remnant since the 1970s. The Saint Louis Zoo in partnership with MDC is releasing about 150 pairs of American burying beetles at the Wah-Kon-Tah Prairie north of El Dorado Springs, Mo. Also partnering in the project is The Nature Conservancy of Missouri and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Image of an American burying beetle

American Burying Beetle

The American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) used to be common but is now a critically endangered species. It only occurs in a few places in the United States. The Saint Louis Zoo, with other conservation institutions including MDC, has a captive breeding program and is working to restore this species to the wild.

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American burying beetle feeds on dead pen-raised quail

American burying beetle feeds on dead pen-raised quail

American burying beetles feed on carrion, and mating pairs bury small animals to feed themselves and their young. The beetles released at Wah-Kon-Tah were buried in a hand-dug hole with a dead pen-raised quail.

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American burying beetle ready for release

American burying beetle ready for release

American burying beetle ready for release

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American burying beetle release at Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie

American burying beetle release at Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie

Missouri Department of Conservation employees Rick Swopes (left) and Tyler Harding were among the 70 people who helped the Saint Louis Zoo release American burying beetles on June 4 at the Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie. Beetles in the wild dig holes and bury carrion to feed on while raising young. Crews gave the released beetles a hand by digging holes and covering them with chicken wire staked down to keep animals from disturbing them.

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American Burying Beetle Release by Bob Merz

American Burying Beetle Release by Bob Merz

Bob Merz of the Saint Louis Zoo holds an endangered American burying beetle for an experimental release at the Wah-Kon-Tah Prairie.

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image of American Carrion Beetle

American Carrion Beetle

In flight, the American carrion beetle (Necrophila americana) looks a lot like a bumblebee. Adults eat fly maggots, plus some carrion. The larvae are black, teardrop-shaped grubs that look something like a sowbug. They hatch after the dead animal has dried somewhat and eat on the carrion too, particularly dried skin, then creep away to pupate.

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Photograph of American Crow

American Crow

Adults are entirely black with a long, heavy bill. Voice is the well-known “caw, caw.”

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